How Can God Allow Child Abuse?

Within a letter I recently received a reader asked a question I thought worth answering. She wrote:

If I were in the room with a man abusing a child, and I could do something to stop him, I would be morally obligated to do what I could, right? So, according to my upbringing, God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He has the ability to protect every abused child in this world. Why is he morally exempt from acting? Either he wants to act, but is incapable, or he can act, and chooses not to. But I can’t think of a morally good reason for him to choose to allow the abuse to continue if he is able to stop it and protect a child who cannot protect him/herself. I’ve always admired your continued faith and rationality. You don’t often see faith and rationality together these days. So, I would like to know if you can provide some insight into my dilemma. Is it possible to believe in an all-powerful, loving God in the face of such a question? I will say I don’t think it’s a matter of God respecting free will. That would work as far as adults go, but how does respect for someone’s free will trump a child’s safety? No human on earth would be granted that moral leeway, so why should God? Okay, I could probably monologue about this question forever, but I would rather hear what you think because, at this point, I’m stuck. Thanks.

It is a matter of God respecting human free will. Our free will is what makes us who we are: it’s the defining human characteristic. God gave us free will because he loves us so much that he granted each and every one of us the power to reject him. That means we must love God out of choice—which is the only kind of love that’s of any real value at all. A love that is forced is no love at all.

We have free will; God gave it to us; out of his love for us he will not violate it. Ever.

We can do whatever we want. We can do whatever healthy, wonderful thing we want—and we can do whatever vile, evil thing we want. We can steal. We can rob. We can rape.

We can beat children.

Anything we want.

Violating the free will of a weaker being is one of the options all of us have in life. It’s a horrible thing to do: it’s the very definition of evil. But if you’re a fan of rational thought, then you’ve got to understand that the fact that people are free to violate the free will of less powerful people isn’t a sign that God is weak or morally corrupt. It’s a sign of just how sacrosanct God considers human free will.

The beaten child’s free will is being robbed. And that’s a heinous offense. But it’s not one being committed by God.

God witnesses such affairs, and cries.

 

Here’s a video I once made (via the free online tools available at xtranormal.com) about this very subject:

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rose-Stockwell/100002692444585 Rose Stockwell via Facebook

    I seriously dont get this. We have free will but are sinning if we choose wrongly or are tricked by a snake. If God can stop suffering but doesnt how is he good? And if he cant he isnt omnipotent. A good powerful loving God wouldnt allow child abuse or starvation. Find it difficult

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      It’s emotionally but not intellectually difficult. Again: God doesn’t beat children. People do. God won’t STOP people from beating weaker people, because he won’t violate anyone’s free will. We are free to victimize others, if that’s what we choose to do. That’s a horrible choice for any of us to make–but it’s literally our God-given right to make that choice. We wouldn’t want God to interfere with any choice we make, anywhere along the moral continuum of the great many moral choices each of makes every single day.

      • A’isha

        Exactly, John.

      • LSS

        i WOULD want God to interfere. i don’t see what’s so great about free will if most of what it does is give us the opportunity to treat each other like crap and make each other miserable.

        i’m finding it hard to believe in a lot of the things that i used to, but i preferred the idea that “God *does* micromanage”.

      • Jeff

        “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?

        Then he is not omnipotent.

        Is he able, but not willing?

        Then he is malevolent.

        Is he both able and willing?

        Then whence cometh evil?

        Is he neither able nor willing?

        Then why call him God?”~Epicurus

        • DR

          Interesting Jeff, it looks like you are defining God here. Funny how our own needs tend to justify our. Inconsistency. Welcome to the human race.

      • DR

        Yes, exactly this. Free will isn’t like an iPod we give somebody for Christmas, it’s not a “gift” in that sense. When God gave Humanity free will He designed it into our DNA, into the DNA of the world. It’s as much a part of our fabric as breathing, as gravity and editing it in anyway, making it any less than what it is would be like asking us to take 2 breaths a minute instead of the amount we need to stay alive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/divadarya Darya

    Boy, talk about getting to heart of it; well done.

    I don’t really consider myself Christian, but I am a person who believes in God. I guess I can blame that on having been a religion minor in college, a recovering alcoholic, a transgendered woman and a relentless seeker. Parts of my family see Church as a social duty, and I also have hard-core scientifically minded atheist friends.

    I don’t really have a problem with the idea of a non-interfering higher being who allows us to develop and evolve;I’m back more with the mystics like Eckhardt who felt that evil was measured in distance away from God, rather than an active force.

    I’ve been lurking a while; I like this site a lot.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Thanks, Darya; I appreciate it. I kind of hate answering this particular question, because I always get bombed by people who think I’m somehow saying it’s OKAY for innocents to suffer—or who simply do as reader Rose did below. Which I understand, of course. Anyway, thanks for the kind words.

      • http://www.facebook.com/divadarya Darya

        When I experience some sort of inexplicable grace, I always feel affirmed, but it’s hard to explain to someone who is up against something horrible or a hardline “atoms smashing together” atheist. One test for me is this; I can pray for God to take out my trash, but it’s pretty clear that’s MY job. I always liked one definition I heard of Karma; “What’s happening right this second? that’s your Karma”.

        “Adversity” is part of the deal-I know this for a fact.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          “God or not, we still have to take out our own garbage” is a thing I quite often write! So. There it is.

  • A’isha

    This is one that stumped me for many years as well. I grew up being sexually and physically abused for the first 13 years of my life…literally horrific stuff. For many years I thought God had abandoned me in that abuse. I tried like mad to do everything perfect so God would love me and save me.

    What I finally learned, after years of life and years of therapy and years of having new parents who do love me unconditionally, is that God didn’t abandon me back then and doesn’t abandon me now. Yes it was horrible. The choices made by my abusers were dreadfully wrong. But God was right there with me, weeping, protecting. Did he protect me by stopping the abuse? No. He did give me the skills to survive it emotionally. He did give me the ability to overcome that childhood. He walks with me now as I’m put in so many situations where because of my history I’m able to help others.

    John’s right that there’s no way God can take away our free will if he truly loves us. Think about a parent with a child. We could force our children to always do what we think is best for them or we could allow them to grow and make mistakes. We know that truly loving them also means giving them freedom. It still rips our hearts out when they make bad choices. And when their bad choices also hurt others it hurts us even more.

    I truly believe God cries whenever an innocent child (or elderly person or weaker person or disabled person or whomever is being hurt). But I also think he gets angry over it. We’re taught many stories throughout the Bible where God’s anger shows through. It’s always anger at injustice and when his children turn from him. My abusers turned from God and made horrible decisions that hurt me as well as others. If that’s not injustice, I don’t know what is.

    But I’ve also come to learn–and accept–that God still truly desires to bring my abusers back to him. My abusers are also made in the image of God and he loves them, no matter how unlovable and truly despicable I find them.

    Mainly, I’ve learned through my life that it’s the times when I’ve had horrible things happen to me that my faith is seriously tested and strengthened. When I have nothing and no one to trust besides God, I draw nearer to him and am comforted.

    • A’isha

      Sorry, didn’t realize I wrote so much. This is one of those topics that is truly personal.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        It was awesome. I was so glad you wrote what you did, A’isha. As always.

    • Soulmentor

      Your story is inspirational and very moving, but it is YOUR story. Something you wrote grabbed my attention however, vis-s-vis this discussion. “He did give me the skills to survive it emotionally. He did give me the ability to overcome that childhood.” You can say that now because you survived but……

      That begs the question: Did God then NOT provide or deprive similar strength and insight to those who have not survived similar hardships?

      That brings up back to square one on the big question, doesn’t it.

      • Diana Avery

        I sometimes think this world is a revelation to us. It’s God saying “This is what life looks like when you do not follow me.”

        I think that since the time of Jesus on the planet, God has opted to work more with individual hearts than with big, sweeping, OT style miracles (both good and bad.) When we let God into our hearts, we change, which changes the world–if not quite as efficiently and quickly as we might wish.

        I could be wrong.

    • Adrianne

      Even though it’s been almost 1 1/2 yrs since you posted this, I want you to know someone is still reading it how immensely helpful and inspirational it is. You truly see the heart of God and don’t blame Him for the horrible things that were done in your childhood. I wish your post was available on more sites that address the issue of God allowing evil. You are right on!! May God continually bless you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnnettaC Annetta Parente Cepek via Facebook

    Rose brings up a common argument…How loving could God be if there is such tremedous suffering in the world..starvation, abuse, illness, agony of all sorts.

  • http://parentingatrans.blogspot.com Gretchen

    You make things make so much more sense. Love you for this!

  • http://hahasforhoohas.com anna

    I don’t get how some people don’t get this. Without the freedom to choose evil, then we lose the freedom to choose good. And if we don’t choose to love, then love is meaningless.

    We live in a world where evil exists and we’re all capable of evil. Maybe not child abuse, but certainly hurting each other in some capacity. What type of sins do we want God to intervene and stop us from doing? Where do we draw the line? Is child abuse the only sin where we want intervention? (for the record, if someone sexually abused a child in front of me, I’m capable of murder). But what about murder?

    Also, is it only physical abuse that we deem evil? What about verbal or emotional abuse? Should God intervene when we’re in a bad mood and want to say something nasty to loved ones? What about gossip, betrayal, making fun of someone, or secretly watching pornography when our partner (who would be devastated if they knew) was peacefully asleep?

    Instead of choosing to do good – do we really want to be controlled by a God who forces us to do good by intervening mightily every time we want to do something morally wrong? Should he rip out our vocal chords when we say something mean to someone out of anger? Should he spin our cars off the road when we flip someone off in traffic or rip our computer out of the walls when we’re tempted to lust after someone who isn’t our spouse?

    AND if God stopped bad things from happening to us or stopped us from doing bad things to others – what kind of people would we be? Knowing pain is what truly allows us to know – I mean deeply know – joy. And gratitude. How can we give thanks when no one really had a choice but to be kind? It’s our suffering, sadness, trials and obstacles that make us so beautifully human. It’s experiencing a lack of love that compels us to work so hard at giving love. It’s experiencing meanness that allows us to give and appreciate kindness. It’s hurting someone that makes us realize how important it is that we love them instead. If God didn’t allow me to suffer by losing my job then I wouldn’t have worked so hard to achieve my dreams. Knowing suffering often makes us stronger with a desire to love, give and work – harder.

    And best of all, it allows me TO CHOOSE to love God instead of being controlled by a God that makes me love him. God cannot and will not FORCE us to stop sinning. Even the most heinous, horrendous of sins. Humans are responsible for our children being abused and molested – not God. We have to take responsibility for our humanness, that can, at times, desire to do evil things. You can’t say God didn’t warn us.

  • Danae Copeland McPherson via Facebook

    People often forget that satan is ruler in the earth. God gave us that authority back through Jesus, but if we do nothing with it – we are the one’s to blame. We were told to take care of teh poor, the sick, the widows, the orphans – we are to blame for this… The solution – do what we were told to do and stop blaming God…. Just my thoughts….

    • Jeff

      Thats exactly what Religion wants us to believe…..that we are at fault, and not the Gods we worship. The Gods are not evil, we are. Yet we are the ones who feed the poor, take care of the sick, the widows, and the orphans. If we didn’t, our God would sit back and let them die, all because of our reasoning, that we all have free will, so that, free’s up God from having to be involved or personally responsible to do anything.

      • DR

        Wrong. People (who are religious) do all of that *because* they are motivated by a loving, personal God.

        • Jeff

          Yes but religion does want you to believe, that your at fault and not your God.

          • Jeff

            And many more people do it, without a belief in a God also, and don’t use that as an excuse.

          • DR

            Oh please. This is so manipulative and it’s a tactic that people with an axe to grind use all of the time. Stop telling people who actually have faith “what religion tells them”, you don’t have the last word on that. How arrogant to suggest that you do. There are millions of critical thinking, well-educated people of faith who acknowledge the logical fallacies of having faith all of the time, maintain a strong sense of personal responsibility and just have zero resemblance to what you’re offering here. Stop projecting your own issues onto other people.

          • LSS

            are you sure? because i looked it up and there are very few percent of people on this planet that don’t have any religion.

            i expected it to be like 1/3 of the planet or something, and it’s like 2% ?! anyway under 5%.

          • DR

            Oh I know Jeff. You’re enlightened and want everyone to understand the “true” God. You’re doing a fabulous job representing that so far.

          • Jeff

            No I don’t, but im offended when people try to.God is not definable.

          • DR

            God’s not definable *for you* which has nothing to do with my story or anyone else’s. I’m not offended by your beliefs, if they don’t hurt anyone they are yours to have. I’m going to define God. If that “offends” you it’s entirely your own issue which is rooted in your own lack of tolerance. It’s not anyone else’s problem so stop asking people to “prove” their faith in a way that makes sense to you. I could give a crap about what you believe about my faith, I really mean that. It’s so weird to deal with those of you who think I or any other Christian owe you something and then watch you attempt to make it about us and our lack of conviction when we’re not manipulated into the conversation.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            Perfect, DR.

          • Diana A.

            No, God is not definable, but it’s hard to have a relationship with something/someone that is undefined, so we do the best we can and hope that it’s enough.

          • DR

            This x 10000.

      • Diana A.

        So you believe in the existence of a God, you just believe that this is God is evil. Correct?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rose-Stockwell/100002692444585 Rose Stockwell via Facebook

    I know its people doing wrong. And others doing nothing. I blame people I am struggling with believing in God. How do you do that? This a genuine question. I am lost

  • Marcelo

    John, you had stated that personal evil is distinct from natural evil. You’ve discussed personal evil. That, of course, is linked to free will. And you have stated one of the theodicies, or explanations for the problem of evil: God loves us so much that He wants us to choose Him.

    But what about natural evil? Instead of the child being molested by a person, the child dies in an earthquake, or a hurricane. The same concerns apply: Why does God allow this to happen? Our free will is immaterial to what we can’t control: the environment.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore
      • Allie

        Interesting, except that people have invested enormous effort into, say, curing cancer, with limited results. And the results we have cause as much suffering as they cure. That’s true of almost everything people do, the law of unintended consequences. The corn subsidies intended to make sure America’s poor can eat lead directly to feedlots and E. Coli outbreaks, corn syrup and obesity. What we push down pops up elsewhere. The system is broken. Which is, incidentally, what traditional Christian theology, and most other theologies, tell us, that this world is broken, that it was never meant to be this way.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Do you not see how determinedly pessimistic your takes are? “The system is broken.” God, I hope you’re not young.

          • Allie

            Not pessimistic at all. Because in the same place we are promised that there is an end to this, an end to death, and a restoration of the original, unbroken system.

            So we cure death – in the broken world. What then? Population explosion? What then, birth control – so no one ever enjoys the laughter of a child again? You can’t get out of this so easily. It’s not a trivial problem.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            “You can’t get out of this so easy.” What a twerpily belligerent thing to say.

            And we’re not discussing something trivial? My goodness. You are full of penetrating insights.

        • LSS

          i kind of agree with your pessimism in some ways but i know several cancer survivors that are pretty [insert expletive] glad to be alive even though they had to suffer a lot with chemo and such things.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            No shit. People are cured of cancers all the TIME that even five years ago would have killed them. The advances in medical nanotechnologies leave no doubt but that cancer is destined—and relatively soon—to be eradicated.

        • DR

          Allie the majority of cancers are completely curable and if not curable, the life one actually enjoys is extended enormously. I’m curious as to what is behind ” limited success” as it relates to cancer, compared to where we were even ten years ago the progress made when caught early is massive.

      • LSS

        went to read the article. i think you are definitely right about environmental stuff like how there are probably more and more weather related disasters due to preventable climate change.

        i hadn’t really put 2+2 together about that, but in terms of a big scale of what God would rather us do over the course of history, i guess that’s your point …

        do you think really Humans were supposed to be able to fix everything and we just screwed it up? it seems like almost a second fall of Humankind maybe worse than the original one because that one didn’t wipe out the Human race, it sort of started it…

        • LSS

          when i say “do you think that really [...]?” it’s not rhetorical. i want to know if i have understood the position because it’s kind of new to me, or at least thinking about it in that context is.

          i guess i was raised with the idea that everything was fundamentally flawed and couldn’t be solved completely, and that was to teach us about the Fall and sin and the incompleteness of humankind without God.

  • Don Whitt

    Where would God’s interceding start and end? With just the things WE consider insufferable or what our neighbors or even our enemies consider so? This is our job, not God’s.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    Rose: Here’s a place to start: seriously ask yourself why you want to believe in God.

    • Jeff

      Your absolutely right John……why would any person of reason want to follow any God ?

      • DR

        Because doing so serves me and others. It causes me to love well. But mostly because I want to. Your story is yours to have. And so is mine.

        • Diana Avery

          Yes indeed.

        • Jeff

          Very True…..

          • DR

            Then consider stopping your rather militant, fundamentalist display of atheism here, challenging each idea that perhaps God is real. You don’t know that with any conclusion just like we don’t. I’m fine if you don’t believe in God I have absolutely zero interest in converting you. You’re a grown man who has the beliefs he does because you’re choosing them but your rather declarative statements about God on a forum where a lot of people believe in Him (and the fruits of those beliefs being good) seem awfully disrespectful.

          • Jeff

            I never said I didn’t believe in God !I just don’t believe in the God you all subscribe to here. I don’t believe he is definable in any way, shape, or form. I would go as far as to describe myself as a Theist. Not an Atheist…..no, no, no!

          • DR

            You don’t know shit about the God people believe here based on one conversation about evil. How arrogant to assume that you do.

          • Jeff

            Dr~ temper…..temper……im only refering to this post and no other.

          • DR

            Anger is an activating agent, Jeff. You’re the one who’s petulant and aggressive, I’m just treating you like a grown up and responding to you truthfully. You have zero interest in having any kind of genuine discussions with Christians, otherwise you’d be asking a lot more questions and and demonstrating actual curiosity about the answers. You’re not as clever as you think you are.

          • DR

            PS – that’s exactly my point, thank you for proving it. Peoples’ beliefs unwind over lots of time, lots of posts and lots of conversation. People with a genuine interest in spirituality who want to really discover what others think and feel about it know that the God “that people subscribe to” is revealed across several conversations – online even more so because of the lack of interpersonal context. They’d never enter into one post and have the people here figured out and try to state that so declaratively as you have done.

      • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

        “why would any person of reason want to follow any God ?”

        SOUTH PARK addressed this issue once. IIRC, they summed it up along the lines of, “If you (the disbeliever) are right and we’re wrong, hey, no harm done; we tried to live better lives. But if we’re right and you’re wrong, you’re fucked.”

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        Why would any person smugly answer a question no one was directing toward them?

  • Lynette

    Here’s my thought. If God intervened in the big tragedies, like child abuse, rape, murder, earthquakes, tsunamis, huricanes, we’d still be having this conversation, only we’d be arguing that a good God wouldn’t allow parents to yell at their kids, or serve chocolate pudding instead of the vanilla we wanted, and he wouldn’t allow sprained ankles and flat tires and so on. When “big” evil doesn’t exist, other evil becomes big and we still have the same questions because from the perspective of a more perfect world, there are still big evils. The choice is either to allow evil to exist and humans to have free will or to not allow any free will and no evil at all because human suffering of any sort will always give rise to the same questions. We need to do our jobs and love instead of hurting, hating, or not caring, and not blame God when we fail to do so.

    • Diana Avery

      I like this.

  • Anon

    I remember really struggling with this as a kid. I read the Old Testament stories of God delivering Isreal from Egypt and David who wrote “I can run through a troop and leap over a wall”. And even the words of the 23rd Psalm used to mock me – when I walk through the valley of darkness I will fear no evil. Yet I continually feared evil.

    I was a physically disabled child who was at the mercy of a mentally ill older brother who constantly abused me in many ways. My mother did protect me sometimes, but looking back as an adult I can see that she really didn’t try very hard. I guess she had her own issues too. Maybe she didn’t know how to stand up to him either…I don’t know. I guess I never will. But anyway, I used to pray and fast and beg for protection, a protection that never came.

    And I wondered why God didn’t protect me, didn’t he love me? Wasn’t he real? Was there some sin that kept God from acting on my behalf? Was I not a strong enough Christian to rebuke the Devil and have him flee? Of course the answer to all this was NO. I was a little girl who needed other people to protect and provide for me. They, for whatever their reasons did not.

    But the silent, invisible God of my childhood who to my despair didn’t send angels to beat up my big brother did do for me was continue to work with my heart. Over the decades he has healed me. He has given me wisdom. He has allowed me to forgive my brother even though he is not in my life now. It took me a little while to forgive youth pastors and others who I had told, but didn’t move to protect me. But I now allow people in the church the luxary of not being perfect either. He has given me strength to help other women and children in bad situations. He has made me determined that nothing like this will ever happen to my children.

    • Donald Rappe

      Another example of the omnipotence of God.

  • http://mookiecom@earthlink.net Jim

    I think that John Shore’s posting is right on target, seemingly cruel as it may be. But one additional point must be added as a prelude to his piece.

    First God brought matter into existence, then matter became conscious, then it became self-conscious and was infused with a soul. What could a creature with such a pedigree possibly offer in gratitude that would be meaningful to a Spirit? We can offer the ONLY thing that God ever asked for, the ONLY thing He can’t create for himself: an act of love given freely by a creature that He raised from mud.

  • Donald Rappe

    I think I may be slightly heretical with respect this aspect of Shoreanism. While I agree that free will is a very important part of our humanity, or of the canininety of my friend Chico Pete Buhl, it is not everything. (I am particularly happy that Chico chooses to display great gratitude toward me for occasionally refilling his tippable water container on our subtropical summer days. Since he’s not human, he is not grateful to me for providing his young master with a very stable water container.) His great jaws could crush my neck and kill me almost instantaneously and he has instincts which let him know this. But he freely chooses not to do this. For this I thank both Dios and Chico. I do not find this any more inconsistent than I do that God has created all physical systems to have both a wave and particulate nature. I need to keep in mind what God I am speaking of. It is well and good for me to anthropomorphise God to have sight, hearing, love, anger and many other fine human characteristics. I do not visualize God’s Will as being “free” in the sense that mine and Chico’s are. I personally need to maintain enough distance to hear his question: “Where were you when I hurled the stars into the heavens and all those divine children sang together?

  • Judith MacKay Dahlen via Facebook

    OK… back up the train…. We say we believe in One God, yet imbue “Satan” with God status. We do not, apparently believe in One God. Face it, many who claim to believe in One, actually believe in Two. So much so that we see gibbering fear and self righteous emotional and physical violence perpetrated in what amounts to religious fervor on belief in the Second God, wrapped in the guise of devotion to the One.

    • Soulmentor

      Wow!! What a profound insight. Short and concise. Gotta love it.

  • Judith MacKay Dahlen via Facebook

    Further… statistically, a significant proportion of child sex abuse occurs in intensely conservative Christian homes where the father rules supreme and his family are lined up like Stepford Christians.

    • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

      Sadly true…

  • Judith MacKay Dahlen via Facebook

    Jesus said to the Priest who chastised him for breaking rules and healing on the Sabbath: If you have love you have no need of these rules. Rules bind people up in power plays and unhealthy obsessions that lead to perverse behaviors in some.

  • Judith MacKay Dahlen via Facebook

    As for the human capacity for cruelty, wars, famines, misery in general, I say, be like Tevya (Fiddler On The Roof) Talk to God, shout to God, raise your fist to God and keep demanding to know why and for solutions. If you believe that God is Love, than you have nothing to fear.

  • Allie

    Doesn’t quite work. Because God also chooses to abuse children directly. Every child, in fact, is murdered by God. Every. Single. One. God is the greatest, the original, serial killer.

    Read any part of the Bible which addresses this and you find no easy answers. God says in so many words he is the author of everything, both good and evil. God says he inspires people to do evil – he “hardens Pharaoh’s heart.” You can either toss out most of the Bible, create a God of your own imagining, or you can work with the God that’s in there.

    Jesus says at one point, what father would choose to give his child a snake when he asks for a fish? If earthly fathers know how to give good gifts, trust that the heavenly father knows. But possibly Jesus is being ironic. Because the story that’s in there says God gave two innocent children in the Garden of Eden a snake, not a fish. That’s EXACTLY what their heavenly father did. He gave them the snake, which in the end was giving them death. Whether you regard the story as myth or not doesn’t change the fact that it’s in there, and it’s surely intended to mean something, and Jesus had heard this story and knew it.

    God made the world which is a world full of suffering and death. Not just suffering and death because of the free will of human beings, but also unavoidable, not-human-caused, suffering and death. I’ve got a miserable cold right now and it’s not because anyone was mean to me.

    So – do I have a cold because God can’t stop colds, or because God doesn’t bother, or because colds serve some greater purpose in God’s plan?

    Who the fuck knows?

    Pardon my French, but seriously. No one knows. Job saw God face to face and the story STILL doesn’t say what the answer is. We only know that for Job, the presence of God was enough that he repented of even asking the question. There are theologians on top of theologians who claim to know the answer but they are all fakers and liars, because no one knows. I have a physics book in which the author imagines that perhaps free will was only possible in a world where colds and the death of suns were also possible. That author doesn’t know either. And the words “free will” are nowhere found in the Bible, whereas many passages such as God hardening the heart of Pharaoh, which imply a lack of free will, ARE in the Bible.

    I don’t know either. But I do know that in my personal encounters with God, I have met pure love, love unimaginable. I know that God loves his creation and loves me. I’m not guessing and I’m not basing my belief on words written by anyone else – this happened to me and so I’m telling you my personal experience. And my experience is remarkably similar to that of almost every other person who has claimed to be touched by God.

    So there’s that. God loves us, and God hurts us. Those are the facts, and it’s up to you what to make of them.

    • Jeff

      Beautifuly said…….thank you for taking the time to write that. Man has been struggling with this very same argument long before Christanity came along. If god says not to murder, then why does he murder? If God says not to condemn , then why does he condemn ? The old and new testament is full of contradictions, that the religious completely ignore .

      • DR

        You completely ignored her last point. Which is ironically, what people of faith do too, some of us just admit it. We pay attention to the parts of this Story that we can hold on to, that filter the meaning in a particular way. The others like how evil exists? It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t align with what we believe a Loving God to be. But ultimately just like you Jeff we put our faith in the set of data that makes sense but most of all, that serves us and helps us live and contribute in a way that hopefully adds some kind of meaning. Others are able to do that with having no faith in God at all which is fine – it’s just their story. It doesn’t have to be anyone else’s.

        • Jeannie

          I agree, DR.

        • Jeff

          Dr: true:)

          • DR

            Ugh.

    • http://www.facebook.com/divadarya Darya

      The Jews have understood the contradictions for a very long time; the word “Israel” means “To wrestle with God”. The Talmud is a constant commentary on “What the heck did Ha’shem mean?”. If you’ve ever wondered where the Jewish dietary laws came from, it’s from a passage in the Torah that says “Thou shalt not boil a kid in it’s mother’s milk”. At first, it seemed simple enough, and thousands of years later orthodox and conservative Jews have two sets of dishes.

      Some Christians want every single word of the text to be true, and I frankly think that’s an exercise in in insanity.

      I love the Book of Job; it’s an allegory for God at His most vain and arbitrary, and he gets help from his wayward angel, who He’s on definite speaking terms with. A great point, Allie.

    • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

      God didn’t give Adam & Eve a snake, He gave them a choice.

      They chose to betray the God who created them and gave them everything they needed out of their selfish desires to be as great as God.

      God warned ‘em it was the the tree of the >knowledge< of good & evil.

      There was nothing good or evil about the tree itself, only in the conscious act to obey/disobey.

      (For those more comfortable w/metaphorical truths, consider the above metaphorical; with those more comfortable w/literal truths, ditto. Works both ways.)

  • Beidir

    It is the wordplay that makes this all so vague, I feel. God doesn’t hinder free will, except to turn people into salt, create earth quakes, flood the earth, if he is moved to do so. we are programed to believe the words of god are spoken through the mouth of men who allow the easy answers to be left to faith and the hard answers to be left to ‘free will’ and ‘natural evil’ (whatever that is … the real world?). We live in a wonderful, yet precarious world. A world full of hope and promise, as well as physical danger. If one truly believes in God, or a god, the route to Him/Her is from within. If there is evil, injustice, pain, or sorrow, it comes from us. God can’t be faulted for what man does. Religion has been remiss in teaching people, and allowing them to believe, that, somehow, they are obligated to God. They are obligated to each other. What one does (or doesn’t do) to another soul, is what brings evil and injustice. Christ said, “what you do … you do unto Me.” Anyway, no one needs to look anywhere but to themself, to find the source of our problems and redemption … No more excuses, would be nice

  • Soulmentor

    “If horses had gods, they would look like horses.” – Xenophanes, Greek philosopher/poet.

    From what I can find in research, that’s a paraphrase of his actual words written in greater length. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenophanes My point is that perhaps we should consider that our problem with understanding and living with these kinds of questions of God allowing evil to exist vis-a-vis love and omnipotence, etc is that we have created God in our own image. Immediate example is how we speak of God as “He” instead of “It”, Father instead of Mother. In short, something we can understand…..and when we can’t, we excuse as….well, the mystery we can’t comprehend…..or the capricious “boss”.

    The alternative of course, is the reality humanity can’t face……total incomprehension beyond what we invent. The only real alternative to that is to try to live without a definition of God in our minds which to me is more like Buddhism.

    Bottom line is, as John has said of so many of our religious notions…..we really don’t know. We just try to convince ourselves to believe SOMETHING. Uncomprehending “faith” in whatever tradition we’re comfortable with I guess.

    Which brings us back to Jesus. He made God comprehensible……if necessarily simplistic for our finite minds, but in so doing, still didn’t answer the great questions.

    Or did he? Perhaps the answer is indeed as simple as LOVE. Just live in Love and let the rest take care of itself. Be content with not having all the answers.

    Let alone presuming to force answers we don’t really have on others.

    • Beidir

      nicely said

    • Diana Avery

      Love this. Thank you, Soulmentor.

  • http://www.facebook.com/okflowerchild Linda Tenney Sexton via Facebook

    God doesn’t allow a whole host of things people do! (And, no, I don’t include being gay.)

  • Jeff

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?

    Then he is not omnipotent.

    Is he able, but not willing?

    Then he is malevolent.

    Is he both able and willing?

    Then whence cometh evil?

    Is he neither able nor willing?

    Then why call him God?”~Epicurus …….this quote should answer all of your questions .

    • Jeannie

      There’s a hole in the second point I could drive a bus through. Being able to do something, but not being willing for whatever reason, does not necessarily make God (or me) malevolent. It’s just not that black and white.

      • Beidir

        Seems there’s been a lot of talk like that around Penn State …

    • Lymis

      Or else something entirely different is going on, and we are judging God by human standards.

      • LSS

        seems like i read on this blog that we GET our human standards of love, justice, etc. FROM God. this is part of what bothers me.

        i want this stuff to make sense, really i do. but it doesn’t and the more i try to think (instead of being a sheeple) the less it makes sense.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          I sure never said that.

          • LSS

            ok maybe i misunderstood. but when you were writing about Hell and on the topic of how could a Just God condemn all those people and some people say that we don’t understand Justice the way God does but i thought you said something like, where do we get our human standards of justice and love from? we get them from God as part of being made in God’s image.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Jeff: I don’t have any questions. And the answer–as I’ve written here–to “whence cometh evil?” is, again, via human free will. Just because it’s an ancient Greek guy doesn’t make him an oracle of wisdom.

      • Jeff

        John: it’s not unreasonable to expect this from a God that we follow. I have yet to be able to get any believer of God to be able to answer those 4 questions reasonably. That is very troublesome to me.

        “It is not the man who denies the gods worshipped by the multitude, who is impious, but he who affirms of the gods what the multitude believes about them”.~Epicurus

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          This whole POST answers those questions. You can stop being troubled now.

          • DR

            For people like Jeff, those “questions” are never just questions. They are invitations to a fight he already believes he’s won and those who hold any kind of counter point have lost. The only thing people like Jeff need to do is to learn how to be a little less obtuse about their complete lack of interest in the actual answers.

      • Jeff

        Nor does a guy who has a blog post either:)……..”Oracle of wisdom”

        • DR

          Hey John not sure if you got the Internet memo but a smily face translates into ” You can’t call me on my passive aggressive dickishness because I’m using an emoticon!”. I find this very useful in my dealings with the Jeff’s of the world.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Jeff: Right. That’s why you’d want to rely on whatever powers of rational thought you are, I am sure, proud to posses.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jpenton Joseph P. Rose via Facebook

    Big fan John, but I don’t buy this explanation. You say that God doesn’t intervene in child abuse because that would be violating free will, which is evil. But if I see a child being beaten so I grab the child and run off, I am not violating that persons free will, and I am doing something good rather than evil. In the story where God split the Red Sea to help the Israelites escape, God was not violating the Egyptians free will. When you respond to someone else’s actions you are not violating their ability to choose. God could very easily save people from evil while still allowing people to make evil choices.

    At the same time, God intervening in free will is a recurring theme of the Christian tradition. In Exodus, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. The author of Romans asks “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?” Furthermore, if we pray for God to provide us with bounty, or to help us in our relationships, or to draw people closer to God, is it certain that there is no meddling in freewill whatsoever? Then how are prayers answered, how does God work on earth rather than through people?

    All that being said, I still don’t have a satisfying answer to this conundrum. I look forward to continue to hear the perspectives of other love-focused people.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      When you save the child, you are violating the free will of the abuser.

  • LSS

    i was going to post that, so, yeah. so sometimes is God just using people to do the thing He won’t do?

    and how hard would it have been for God to give *every* victim more resources to fight back or to stop the abuse entirely?!

    i’m with somaticstrength on this topic (although without her experience but i know enough people who have told their experiences of terrible things done to them).

  • Lymis

    I’m sorry, but this explanation always leaves me cold, because it’s both cruel and, at it’s heart, completely inaccurate, or at least, besides the point.

    When we start talking about God’s motives, we have to consider them from our best understanding of God’s viewpoint – which is that we are each eternal creations and that our bodies and human experience are not what is “real” about us to God – though those experiences and bodily realities are certainly something God is aware of.

    From the viewpoint of Eternity, the most miserable human life, filled with the most horrendous trials – and face it, as awful as child abuse is, it’s nothing compared to what some humans have faced throughout history, and still face today in places – is a blip set against an Eternity with a loving God prepared to soothe our hurts, calm our fears, and rejoice with us forever.

    It’s like asking how a loving parent could let a set of playclothes be ruined by a child playing in the yard. That’s what those clothes are for, and it is the experience of the child inside those clothes that matters. A loving parent could easily say that not only the fun, but the lessons in confidence, creativity, teamwork, physical fitness, and interaction with other children far outweigh making sure the clothes stay neat.

    A loving God can see beyond our perspective of the state of our bodies and emotions to the reality of the soul within the human experience. And we can’t.

    Yes, it’s about free will. Because in a very real way, human life is about “not whether you win or lose but how you play the game” – and God will certainly take the powerlessness of that child in that circumstance into account when and if any judging is to be done. But God will also certainly take our response to knowing that abuse is happening and not doing enough to stop it, not creating a society that sees it as unthinkable, not supporting and caring for the victims and breaking the cycles of abuse.

    None of us can destroy a soul. No matter what happens to the people we are, our souls remain undamaged in the eyes of God, or at least, capable of being washed up, bandaged, hugged, and healed. So what’s left isn’t the question of how God can allow awful things – from God’s perspective, nothing awful happened to anything eternal. What’s left is the question of who WE are to allow such awful things, because from our perspective those things DO matter, and matter deeply. It’s the question of who we let ourselves be, what kind of a society we create, and where our priorities lie.

    God isn’t allowing any harm that God can’t fix. Can we say the same?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      “Cruel and inadequate.” Two harsh judgments–neither for which, as far as I can tell, you offer any evidence. (And how is it less cruel to suggest that God won’t violate human free will than it is that the human condition is essentially meaningless to God?)

      • Lymis

        Well, I didn’t say that the human condition is essentially meaningless to God – I said that we are focusing on parts of the human condition that cannot be the most important thing about being human in God’s view, and condemning God for not behaving by human standards. That’s quite different. It’s clear that humans are deeply important to God.

        But in many ways, questions like this are like wondering why a loving God would create people with different skin colors or other characteristics that “cause” discrimination – and that’s because God doesn’t see us that way.

        But if we look at is as the way the argument that you presented is usually presented, we’re presented with a picture of a God who does care about human harm, who does see these human behaviors as existentially significant, who does see actual harm and actual wrong, and stands by to allow it, privileging force over compassion, privileging ego over love. When that is combined, as it often is, with the image of a God who intervenes in human life to cause suffering, to “take” lives, to devastate communities and nations with directed natural disasters, yes, it is a picture of a cruel God. How else could we see a God who believes these behaviors are evil and yet engages in them himself?

        On the other hand, if we see our human lives as deeply significant, but not about what we think they are about – that they are opportunities to give and receive love, to show and experience compassion, to interact with each other, but not to be judged inherently by the actual results. In that view, child abuse is still deeply important – because it is a call to us to step in, to show that love, to evidence that compassion. Not because if we don’t do it God will “allow” a child to be destroyed out of a cold belief in the supremacy of human will, but because, if we don’t step in, God can and will pick up the pieces. How many Bible stories are there of the poor, sick, and downtrodden having a place after death held in the heart of God?

  • LSS

    if “posse peccare / posse non peccare” (or “posse peccare / non posse non peccare”) is so much preferable to “non posse peccare”, then why are we going to be “non posse peccare” in heaven? … and will we be automatons then?

    • LSS

      you can see those terms explained at this site if they are not familiar.

      for some reason they stuck in my head that way when i heard about it in a class dealing with the history of christian ideas. i don’t know what is monergism, i just googled the terms and this site came up.

      http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/four-fold.html

  • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

    To everyone who asks “Why doesn’t God do something about evil in this world?”

    …well, He put you here, didn’t He?

    • Melody

      Right on, buzz. Why doesn’t God just step in and fix everything for us? Because humans made the mess, and God wants humans to clean it up. We’re here to help each other.

    • Beidir

      buss, … thanks for cutting through all the babble. If people think that God is creating (or “allowing”) bad things to happen here, or are waiting to get to heaven to find redemption … they’ve really missed the whole point.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Exactly.

    • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

      Yes. This!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cecilia-Solis-Sublette/1466470876 Cecilia Solis-Sublette via Facebook

    And, thankfully, we have the free will to violate that of others – when it is necessary to do so, as in this case. The trick, sometimes is figuring out when such intervention – on our part – is warranted.

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric Booth

    For years I vacillated between hating God and hating myself. Ultimately, I denied each of us existence. I think it was my childhood way of letting the people I loved off the hook. Or maybe it was God providing a way for me to survive. I don’t know. Either way, it turns out he was totally okay with taking the fall for my abusers. Thank God.

  • Aingyl

    I’ve done a lot of thinking about this topic over the years and what I’ve realized is the people attribute God with having their own personal feelings, and that’s wrong.

    Instead of looking at it from the free will angle and from our human eyes, I pose the question, “Why is the child more important than the adult hurting them?” Don’t get me wrong, child abuse makes me rage. But seriously.

    In comparison, our short years is nothing to and eternal God, who is most likely more -concerned with the journey and the destination than It/S/He is with the bumps in the road. Yes, that view point is harsh, but to a God who sees so much more than us, the horrible things people go through might be viewed the same as the way a level-headed parent views to injuries or misfortunes our children experience.

    We try to teach our kids to be kind, to be honest, to help others, to be courteous, to love instead of hate, but in order for them to GROW through their own experiences and choices, we have to step back and let them go, regardless of what their choices end up causing.

    If our children are upset over something, we tell them to do something about it. We try to guide them, to counsel them, offer moral support, but we don’t make the choices for them. And if we have more than one child, we try our damnedest to not show favoritism, because none of our children is more important than the others.

    And remember this: this particular view of God is from looking at God from the understanding of humans! We are referred to as God’s children, making God the Parent(s), so…

    So a loving God WOULD allow the atrocities that happen if this same God is trying to guide a young, brash, contemptuous RACE of people to a goal beyond the lives they’re currently living.

    • LSS

      but the child is innocent? why should their life progress be potentially sacrificed for the abuser’s life progress?

  • Mark

    This is one of the parts of Christianity that cause me to keep it at a distance. Sorry if I’ve got the doctrine of free will all wrong (or I’ve got an elementary/incomplete picture of it). God gave us free will so that we can each make a choice whether to love God or not (“we must love God out of choice”)? The reason that troubles me is that it’s reasonable to allow for free will and yet disallow the degree of suffering that exists due to free will.

    It would go something like this:

    If I’m God and I’ve given free will to allow my creatures to love me out of choice, and I love all my creatures terribly, then when I see the abuser abuse a child I know what choice the he’s made. I need no further example to know of his rejection. Period. I stop any additional suffering/abuse of that innocent child as it serves no further purpose regarding free will. Throughout the rest of the abusers life he has the free will to make better/different/redeeming choices to show his changed heart and love – allowing him to continue abusing is senseless so I prevent it.

    One could apply that general thinking to many many situations where nobody’s free will to choose God is ever taken away from them. If it is reasonable to think about it this way, then it’s near impossible for me to believe that the degree of suffering in the world is due to free will.

  • Cat Fizer-Rau via Facebook

    @Joseph, to add to the argument that God does not intervene in evil because that would mean he is violating the free will of that person, if God intervenes he is also taking away the possibility for other persons to do good. That’s my .02c.

  • Shaun

    I’m sorry, but “free will” just doesn’t cut it as an explanation. It comes up short in so many ways, let me list just a few:

    1)It’s unfair. If god is to give every person an equal chance to accept or reject him, then he has to give every person the same information and history on which to base that rejection. Yet this is clearly not the case. A child that has been abused his or her entire life and then told that god loves him/her can hardly be blamed if they reject that claim on lack of evidence, can he/she? Compared to the person that grew up in a loving christian family and takes god’s love for granted, they are be asked to make quite the leap of faith.

    Or how about all the vast numbers of people that are born and die in non-christian countries and remote villages without ever hearing about Christianity, or who hear only terrible things about it and never meet a christian who can prove those lies to be wrong? How can they be blamed for rejecting a god they never met or a god who never made a good case for his existence to them?

    Heck, just reading through old bible stories I’m struck at how unfair it is that all those early believers got to actually meet Jesus and witness divine miracles first hand, yet I’m expected to believe in him on faith alone. Why can’t I get to meet Jesus too?

    2)It’s not really a free choice. The choice isn’t “love god because he loves you”, it’s “love god or burn in hell for all eternity.” As long as Hell exists the excuse of free will is a sick joke. A god that tortures those who reject him isn’t a kind and loving god, he’s an abusive, controlling monster.

    3)It doesn’t explain natural evil. Free will almost explains why people are allowed to hurt each other, but it certainly doesn’t explain why natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes and floods and such kill millions of people every year.

  • POP

    about free will:

    I don’t know if free will really exists and is not just a man-made concept. But even if there is such a thing is fairly paradoxical and relevant.

    If the abuser for example exercises his free will by abusing someone…then what about the free will of the victim, how he can have any free will or even if he has…what’s the point if he cannot exercise it and escape violence???

    Then, the consequences of any traumatic event he has suffered are within the scope of his free will???? The limited choices he will have due to harmful effects of abuse, will they manifest his free will???? The way he will be perceived and ignored by you, me, everyone, will it be his free will??? how much of his life will be his free will????

    Who is really free actually on this planet? free will without freedom is it free will, or a forced choice? Perhaps the free will concept only serves the rotten structures of our societies. If we believe a victim has free will to avoid a crime or recover from any harm, we will turn the back easily and say it’s your responsibility. We will spit our poisonous judgements more easily on his face. We will take distance as if he is a loser… we will justify his suffering and our lack of compassion. We will add to that suffering and then implicate god as well in that….or attribute it to his distance from god, to a mental illness, to weakness, but not to our total indifference and coldness.

    about god:

    Why do we theorize so much about god? We talk a lot! We are not lacking in theories in this world, we have too many. Our theories and ideas have divided the world into bad and good, right and wrong…. only polarization exists, it creates chaos and war. We are responsible for this, not God. We have created a war with our minds!!!!!

    We can’t even accept our human nature, how can we ever talk about divine matters? The man doesn’t accept the other man who is sitting next to him, he will find something…. which is faulty in him and he will try to change it….what’s the point talking about god. The man strives for the perfection as he defines it… if he could he would overthrow god himself. We have invented our own standards about how perfect our human nature should become… no love there, no god inside us…

    God could be manifested everywhere around us, in you, in her, in him, in them, in the nature around. But we are so vain, so indoctrinated to worship the silly human mind…. we think that our ideas and ideals are so important.

    We approach everything with the mind, and we have lost our human element. Our hearts are dead. We live like zombies, we use ideas as mental drugs. We use each other like commodities. We sell ourselves like products in the market. Then we are not happy. How could we ever be, we live against our nature..

    We strive about reaching God, and we have forgotten to respect our human nature, to be humans. We always strive to reach an ideal, mentally, and we destroy everything, we waste our lives. We are so controlling, so fool.

    It saddens me more the fact that human genious has attributed suffering and any human attrocity to a higher purpose. So whoever is suffering develops spiritually. Meaning, that without that suffering he would be an empty, bad soul…. How poisonous is this? Humanity suffers since ever, it glorifies pain and torture, has attached divine meanings to it…. but then god would be a monster ….. what is this obsession with interpreting our shit as something which serve a higher purpose???? How can you be so convinced that suffering is the road to god??? and if this is a nice bait in order to serve some genious’ interests???? Humanity is wrecked again and again because people are convinced that suffering is part of life.

    It doesn’t work, it hasn’t worked for centuries. We are so conditioned to pain and suffering and acoompanying meanings, such as god is testing you, it’s god’s will, you are a sinner and so on…. if someone wanted to justify his spreading of suffering on others and keep them a bit enslaved and in a weak position……what else he could find as perfect excuse than GOD himself or spirituality purposes???? The biggest attrocities still happen in the name of love, god, peace, freedom etc.

    if suffering is good and is used even by god himself or any divine order…..then why when in torture and suffering, we believe, feel that god has abandoned us?

    why we feel spiritless?

    why actions that cause pain have been chosen by people since ever in order to bring someone down, to torture him, to punish him???

    to dispiritualize him, dehumanize him???

    to break his spirit, to wreck his soul, to kill anything that is of god inside him????

    If god exists is love, how can u approach him through suffering??? This is a man made concept to justify the suffering which is inflicted upon the masses, it is a concept invented by power hungry people.

    Do you all think that what we have been taught to believe, could be more than a belief???

    What makes you experience god??? An experience of torture or an experience of love and joy???

    when do you feel closer to what we call god? when is your spirit and soul lifted or you whole human existence???? When you are suffering???? or when your being is full of love and joy that children know….

    we should be joyful and full of love as the children, that’s how everyone is born. And if we are born like that, that’s natural and probably what god made our nature to be. But we are so stupid that we even dictate what is natural and we zombify even children, to make them as miserable as we are. Deprivation of any human element and warmth…We call this civilization and growing up…. and of course then we are searching god in the bible, big preachings and empty words…

    it just saddens me.

    Anyway, wish everyone your soul to fly high, not in afterlife, but in this life!

    Salut!

    • LSS

      i found some of this un peu poussé à l’extrème, but you cover a lot of the worries i have with this system, too.

      Especially the fact that a person doesn’t really have a lot of choices unless (1) multiple options are open to them and (2) they KNOW what their options are and KNOW that they are actually free to choose them.

  • POP

    Oh and something else, why free will as a concept and idea, it seems that always serves people who abuse or use power or control over others?? It seems as if it was tailored only for them and their interests.

    The victims never have free will over their victimization, it’s beyond their control. Even the aftermath of victimization and harmful effects are not their free will, free choice, is a forced choice, they take it even if they don’t want.

    So free will really exists? Or is it just another mental manipulation and fantasy which of course serves the ones who control others cause they are free to do it, but it never serves those who are on the other side receiving violence etc.

    • LSS

      it’s certainly being used that way in politics, at least where i live. (>_<)

  • Jessica

    Where is the child’s’ freewill in this matter? I cannot understand why God would allow a child to be raped to death. Yes, I know of people that this has happened to. I am so disturbed by it, I can’t believe that a God would only watch and cry. It seems to me, that it would be horribly cruel to ignore such a thing.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      From the post: “Violating the free will of a weaker being is one of the options all of us have in life.”

      It’s not God who violated the child’s free will; it was–and always is—a terrible person. Again (and again, and again): it’s people who do evil, not God.

      • Tim

        If it were a human witnessing a child being molested and did nothing that person would be be arrested and charged for some crime related to doing nothing about it.

        GOD STANDS CHARGED BILLIONS OF TIMES

        FOR DOING —NOTHING!

  • Jessica

    I really mean this as a question. I am not attacking at all, I just honestly cant come to terms with it.

  • http://www.arawakconsulting.com John L Mendez

    With respect to your open-forum answer to the qstn, “Why would a loving God allow pain and child abuse (rape)?” Some of you write such cop-out answers! NO CHILD raped by an adult is EVER “pretty much free to choose” as a writer falsely states! I’m a single male who was serially molested/raped by a “loving” relative. As an adult, praise God I was BORN-AGAIN yet to this day have great difficulty with understanding how my God allowed this sexual abuse. I forgive those who reply that it’s “free will” they DO NOT UNDERSTAND! As my Lord Jesus Christ says, “they know NOT what they speak.” All their intellectual, new-age explanations amount to nothing! God, for some mysterious reason, forsakes some of us: even if we’ve accepted His Only Begotten Son as our Savior. From Bible studies, I understand that God can let hard circumstances happen to strengthen us. But, His Word has yet to provide a valid explanation why children like myself were repeatedly raped by an adult. I live my entire life suffering depression, zero self confidence and lack of ability to make any decisions. I’m never able to enjoy basic life like everybody else because persistent shame thanks to that child molester. I think God has violated his own rules. God allows my soul to be tortured with extreme depression and self humiliation and unworthiness. I lived in shame since my teens and am now in my 50′s, in support groups some child rape-victims ask, “Why should I trust God again with my life?” I don’t have the answer to that, I just know that according to His Written Word: the Bible; I believe in His promises and one day in heaven in the presence of our Almighty LORD Jesus Christ others like me will NEVER AGAIN suffer shame for having been molested ~ “Your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.” Luke 6:35b

    • Allie

      I think you may have misunderstood. I don’t think anyone here has said the child was free to choose; the abuser was free to choose evil or good and chose evil.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        (thanks Allie)

    • Judea Martin

      Dear John Mendez,

      Thank you for sharing that. I also, and even at the age of 55 years suffer predation from men. Recently I had a man try to molest me on the bus. Me, I feel sorry for the predators. They probably were preyed on themselves and don’t know the Lord.

      However, my soul is burdened on a daily basis with the realization of all the suffering of innocents that is happening at this very moment and probably from the time that man began to procreate. I pray and pray because that is all that I can do.

      I become frustrated because as a child I would lay in bed crying and begging God to have me taken to an orphanage. My childhood was wretched. I couldn’t step out the door without someone trying to prey on me. Its a pattern and I can only think that some demons are appointed to debase me. I don’t know why God allows it.

      I’ve seen him do so many miracles in my life, truly great miracles, but my 6 month old grandson died last year from an illness and all my children and I are devoted to God and we all prayed and cried and heard no answer, not to this day about it.

      So, its perplexing. How can God move so miraculously in our lives and in the lives of all mankind, but when we cry out to be rescued from abuse or the death and suffering of our children, or the abuse and neglect of the innocent of this world, our prayers seem to fall to the ground?!

      I know that Jesus, our lord suffered. He suffered for and because of us. Didn’t he cry out at one point “”You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you?”

      I guess I just want to say that I really appreciated your words, because even though you are wounded by what happened in your life and what it sowed into your belief about yourself, as I do, you hold onto Christ and our hope of resurrection into a better world. That is real faith. Reading what you wrote lifted up my heart because I could see that though you suffer and you don’t have answers you still have faith. I want that kind of faith, so God bless you brother, you blessed and encouraged me today.

      Do you remember the prophets in the bible? Remember how sometimes they just grieved for the sinfulness around them? Maybe we are to be like them, and be Gods voice and God’s tears on this earth, until his final purpose is revealed in the new heavens and the new earth.

  • Ronald

    Dear all,

    you can make up all kinds of excuses for your god letting child abuse happen but I will explain it in only 4 words: There is no god.

    I know you can not handle that thought but this is reality. You can invent all kinds of stories to explain this fantastic and horrible planet, but it is a waste of your time. Do you really think these church child abusers believe in god???

    Every year there are 5 million children between age 1-5 dying and your god just let’s them die and the prayers from the parents unheard. How do all those parents feel when they have asked god to save their child and god does nothing? Simple answer: there is no god.

    If you would only understand how extremely tiny this planet is compared to the Universe, you would understand there is no god.

    Next time you pray for dinner, thank mother earth or the sun. That would be a lot smarter!

    And please remember: there is NO god…. NO god!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Thanks, Ron. That’s helpful. I’m sure no one here has ever considered the radical possibility that there’s no God. And it’s well they/we haven’t, since, as you so deftly point out, it’s unlikely that we’d be able to handle such a mind-blowingly radical proposition.

    • Todd Reeder

      People say God will answer prayers. People pray for the safety of there children and others but the still get abused and killed. Some might say that people in the batman movie killing got killed because they were doing something they shouldn’t be doing. The people killed in Columbine and Newtown school shootings, and the people on 9/11 weren’t doing something they shouldn’t be doing. I think all Christians have are excuses to try to explain things. The video here says God allows free will of abusers and killers because he loves people so much. I think that is crazy. God “I love people so much that I am going to allow they to kill and abuse people.” That’s insanity. How do Christians expect to convince people if the say that God loves people so much that he allows them free will to kill and abuse people? Many people like me don’t believe because of this. I attended a church for about 35 years. Then I stopped because of the insanity they tell you.

    • MJMR
  • spinning2heads

    I think…the question is a legitimate one, and not totally solved by the necessity of free will. As the asker points out, any human standing there would have the moral imperative to protect the child, and violate the free will of the adult in doing so. Yet God either does not have the same moral imperative or She does but does nothing about it. Since I’d rather believe in a God who heeds moral imperatives, I’ve decided that God does not, in fact, have the same moral imperatives we do. Why, I can’t tell you. I haven’t figured that part out yet.

    And yes, it does make God a bit less personal of an entity, and a bit more global. But I’m ok with that.

  • Queenie

    I struggle to understand how such monstrous things can happen to innocent people, particularly babies and children and it makes me angry and sad and I frequently ask God WHY? I do believe we get answers to our questions and prayers though sometimes not immediately and sometimes in answers that we cannot comprehend. The nearest comforting though baffling answer I have got so far is to separate body from soul and not think of harm done to a person but a soul. This does not diminish the responsibility or seriousness of the matter though. In fact it makes it more important to respect each and everyone regardless of age, ethnicity etc. Some souls journeys are long and some short but all are valid and for a purpose.

    As to those who don’t believe in God or a Higher Power that is okay because that is how they make sense of their world and how it works. I think it takes strength to discount the theory of a God as much as it takes strength to believe in this wonderful mysterious elusive Being! Even Mother Theresa had doubts! That is God’s gift to us- to work it all out on our own.

  • Gianna

    I’ve been sexually abused as a child by a family member. I understand that it was the free will of the perpetrator which allowed this to happen, not God. What I don’t understand is how I (as a 6 year old) spent a lot of time praying it wouldn’t happen and that my mom would come back to “save” me from what was happening but that prayer was never answered. How did my unstable family member’s free will override my many prayers. Why would I bother praying now if the free will of others will always cancel out my prayers?

    • James Walker

      I know that in our culture this is hard to understand, but prayer is not something we undertake to petition God in order for God to act or for God to give us something. Prayer is something we undertake for our spirit and God’s Spirit to commune and grow closer. It is how we who are praying allow the Divine Mystery to flow into us so that we can act as God would act in our situations, so that we can Love as God would Love and so that we can show Grace to those around us as God has shown Grace to us.

      I’m so sorry that you were taught prayer as a means of requesting favors from God. It’s a terrible, terrible poisonous teaching that has killed off the budding faith of many children.

  • David

    This was rather a feeble and ultimately
    unsatisfying response – it does not answer anything – why does a so called ‘good’ god allow such behaviour from His children? If nothing, it’s grotesquely irresponsible parenting. There is no moral equivalent to this kind of behaviour anywhere on earth – it would land you in jail for a long, long time. It’s no surprise then that god-fearing Christians daily need to accept ‘magic bullet’ logic to make
    it all fit.

    Here is another example; Jesus was god and god allowed himself to be killed, but he planned it all from the day he made raped a virgin so he could be born on earth – yet made Judas a bad guy even though he was doing exactly as god wanted him to. Then god (Jesus) didn’t really die because you can’t really kill god and so god came back to life (read ‘earth’) even though he didn’t really die in first place. While he was ‘dead’ he was hanging around heaven anyway (or was it Hell?). So, how are we are supposed to be awestruck by this bizarre story of cult of death anyway?

    If you break it all down to the sum of its part, there is no good reason to accept either the existence of a supernatural being, nor the morality it promotes. Everyone grow up and move on from all this crap.

  • Leigh

    Thank you…=)

  • Jay Cey

    Complete cop – out response. So in order to maintain free – will of an evil person, God is willing to sacrifice a child to horrible child abuse. So to prove a point, let the child suffer? That’s your answer? That is an insult to a reader’s intelligence. Can we please stop making excuses for God’s evilness. I believe in God, but him being a loving God is false. He is evil.So there is no concern for child. Don’t say there is, any person who watches a child abused and does nothing is just as guilty.And God who could stop evilness gets a pass? Ridiculous.

  • Bones

    Not quite sure about this free will argument.

    If I knew someone was committing child abuse I would try to stop it.

    Maybe we need to rethink our ideas of God.

    • Matt

      But you already know that someone is committing child abuse. Someone, somewhere is beating a child. Is that not enough incentive to do something? Advocate, research, write or donate on behalf of them? Foster or adopt? Become a healthcare professional, social worker, or policy maker? Mentor the kid down the block who’s having a hard time?

      If you already do, that’s one thing. But it falls flat for me to hear someone say something like that, as if a formal invitation or a direct witness is necessary.

      If you did do those things, would you not consider that God’s response through you?

      • James Walker

        The trouble with that, Matt, is it can lead to atrocities like abortion clinic bombings. If we determine that God does, indeed, require us to act for Him then who puts the brakes on when our actions go “off plan”?

        I think the question of “Why would an all-powerful, all-knowing God permit evil in the world?” is better attacked by challenging the assumptions about the nature of the Divine. Why do we pretend that God has magical powers or presume that God would (or should) ever supernaturally interfere in human events?

        • Matt

          I don’t believe that God requires us to do anything. Again, free will. We are free to ignore the damage we cause to others, cling to our self-righteousness, and yes, go bomb an abortion clinic.

          I tend to look more at our definitions of power. Why does having ultimate power mean that God must wield it directly at every opportunity possible, or He doesn’t have it? Sounds very human, very black and white. Isn’t there power in restraint, and holding back? Isn’t there power in clear, present witnessing? Isn’t there power in sharing knowledge? Why couldn’t God do any of these things as well?

          • James Walker

            I don’t believe that God requires us to do anything.

            I’m not suggesting that’s your personal view either. Where I think the cautionary note should be raised, though, is here:

            If you did do those things, would you not consider that God’s response through you?

            You’re coming very near to saying that God’s way of stopping child abuse is to act through His earthly advocates and the logical conclusion is that it still exists only because His advocates aren’t doing enough to stop it. It’s a very similar argument to the one used by many anti-gay and anti-abortion Christian groups.

            Could we not instead adopt the view that God doesn’t intervene in human evil (for any of a number of reasons, including self-determination) and that if we intervene we are not acting on God’s behalf? I think doing that leaves to God what is rightly in God’s arena – being the example, the ideal, of perfect Love and perfect Grace to which we ought to aspire. This expectation that God will or must DO something to address what is wrong in the tangible world is, to my thinking, poisonous.

          • Matt

            My question was just that, a question. Obviously you don’t think that way. Okay.

            I still leave plenty of things in God’s domain, considering that I’m a nursing student and work in healthcare. I can’t tell you how many people I have met who I could do nothing to truly help. People in the grips of addiction, people with awful chronic pain. I’m not fool enough to believe that any amount of human intervention could remove their problems. And whatever way God decides to intervene (if at all) is none of my business.

            Yet, I do still believe that God works through me. I donate blood, I’m on the bone marrow registry, I volunteer my professional skills. It is (frankly) hurtful that you would conflate what I do with anti-gay groups when I am LGBT. I understand the difference between fervency and fanaticism. I’ve personally felt the damage from the latter.

          • James Walker

            I’ve personally felt the damage from the latter.

            me too. believe me, I’m not trying to lay the evil of those hate groups at your feet, Matt!

            do I believe God works through us? absolutely. the examples you gave of that are, to me, perfect in that regard.

            do we take action on God’s behalf? I think we don’t or, if we try to, we risk getting caught up in presumption and creating God in our image rather than what we’re supposed to be doing as Christians which is to (with the Spirit’s help and guidance) bring ourselves more fully into God’s image.

          • James Walker

            also, it’s a nuance and a very subtle one. it’s probably not as important a distinction as I’m making it. I mean, is anything ever as important as I make it out to be? I’m probably the world’s leading expert on making mountains out of molehills. ;)

          • Bones

            Because you’re making God sound very arbitrary.and Calvinistic.

            I’ve been to Pentecostal churches where God heals sore backs and migraines yet does nothing re abuse.

          • MJMR
      • Bones

        I’ve spent my entire working life working with children either in ministry or in education and if I have personal knowledge of abuse then I am bound by law to do something about it. And yes, that has meant reporting incidents to police and child welfare.

        Is that God working?

        Maybe.

        But what of those who never get found out until their damage is done.

        Believe me that has happened. I’ve found out, after the fact, that colleagues in ministry were abusing kids.

        Child abusers are very sneaky bastards.

      • Virgil-ism Tapispisan

        No. I would not consider my action to be god’s response to the situation. if i follow the same logic your are trying to say here, if i abuse a child, would it be safe to say, i am acting in god’s will? i does not work!

    • MJMR
      • Andy

        Stop posting this all over the place, and if you are going to post it, explain how it’s relevant. Otherwise it will be deemed spam and deleted.

      • Bones

        The difference between Auschwitz and hell is that only one of those is real.

        You are aware that the notion of a God who endlessly tortures people (or allows that) is worse than those who perpetuated Auschwitz.

      • Bones

        If I knew someone was committing child abuse I would try to stop it.

        Maybe we need to rethink our ideas of God.

  • Bones

    Humanity’s been struggling with the nature of evil and suffering probably since we developed higher thought processes.

    When I think of evil and suffering whether it’s the holocaust, 9/11 or innocent victims of child abuse, the question is there ‘Where are you, God?”, ‘Why couldn’t you stop it?”

    There’s no easy answer.

    I don’t think of God as all powerful as such. Or directing humanity like chess pieces. The free will argument falls flat with me. We’ve always committed evil deeds on each other.

    It’s a question that’s haunted me since I found my Dad in the garage with a self inflicted gunshot to the head when I was a young fella. Sure Dad had free will but his mind was clouded with depression.

    “Where were you, God?” “Why didn’t you stop it?”

    The only answer that makes any sense to me is that God experiences evil with us.

    Maybe that’s the message of the cross.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      “The only answer that makes any sense to me is that God experiences evil with us.

      Maybe that’s the message of the cross.”
      Maybe it is indeed

  • Johann Bastion

    to be honest i was raped by a male pedophiel when i waa 5 year old child

    as such i have no faith in god

    • Andy

      That’s an absolutely horrible thing to have happen. If you had always envisioned God as a deity that should intervene and keep bad things from happening to you, I can see why you’d lose faith.

  • Virgil-ism Tapispisan

    I do not agree with your answer as far as free will is concerned. You said that god gave us free will so i can opt to whether i accept him or reject him. if that is the case, why would he send those who do not believe or accept him to hell if i choose to not believe?

  • MJMR

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